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Ensuring your communication system supports your intrinsically safe operations

17 June 2020

When assessing your current communications capabilities, an organisation charged with running critical national infrastructure would need to ask itself a number of key questions.

(Click here to view article in digital edition)

• Are your radio devices ATEX-approved for operations in explosive atmospheres?

• Can security staff prioritise emergency communications over every day operational communication?

• Do your radio devices enable control room staff to constantly monitor staff location, activity, status and movement?

• Is your communications system incorporated into all other security and operational systems, acting as part of your core operations rather than as a standalone network?

• Do you have crystal clear audio delivered through your devices, matched with user-friendly accessories that suit your team’s environment?

• Are your radios rugged enough to handle dirty conditions, preventing dust, dirt or water ingress, or frequent heavy drops or handling?

If you answered no to any of these, there could be failings in your current communications solution, and opportunities to upgrade capability, improving staff safety and operational efficiency.

Effective and reliable communications can make the difference between life and death. Nowhere is this more evident than in ‘safety critical’ environments, such as those found in the oil and gas plants, petrochemical facilities or similar environments. These companies are often located in harsh locations, requiring robust and reliable communications solutions.

Terrestrial Trunked (TETRA) two-way digital radio systems were designed with ‘mission critical’ users in mind and are able to support high levels of coverage, capacity, reliability, availability, security and redundancy. As such, TETRA solutions are ideally suited to safety critical environments.

A crucial aspect of a mission critical network is the ability to prioritise emergency calls, something not possible over standard public networks, or even with lower tiered private radio infrastructure.

This can ensure that in an emergency situation – whatever the cause – emergency communications and direction can be prioritised over all other voice and data traffic. By supporting this key functionality, TETRA radio networks are used by police forces and other public safety organisations on national networks, while private networks are routinely deployed in major sites such as refineries, chemical plants, airports, transport networks, industrial and utility plants and locations with high security requirements such as sports stadiums and large retail parks.

The deployment of such systems ensures security and operational teams can achieve the highest operational standards. Modern two-way mission critical radio system can deliver many other functions vital to such users, including:

• Applications to connect people, devices and systems, ensuring critical systems are linked up and support operations

• Safety features to support lone or vulnerable workers, including GPS tracking, Man Down automated alarms and connection to third party safety devices such as oxygen or heart rate monitors

• Transmissions that use digitally encoded voice encryption algorithms ensuring that communications are kept private and secure

• Scalable systems to support new features or expansion in users

These key operational advantages are supported by high quality radio devices, featuring excellent coverage, crystal clear audio, rugged handsets and exceptional battery life.

Advances in connectivity and product capability also allow modern devices to connect to secure data sources, reducing the need for unnecessary voice communications, whilst also enabling automated responses, for example details of task completion, or recording staff movements.

Case study

Case Study: Shell Pulau Bukom Oil Refinery, Singapore

Shell Pulau Bokom Site
Shell Pulau Bokom Site

Shell’s Pulau Bukom manufacturing site is an integrated oil and petrochemicals site with manufacturing facilities for fuels, lubricant based oils and speciality chemicals, located on an island 3 miles off Singapore. It is Shell’s largest wholly-owned refinery globally with a crude distillation capacity of around 500,000 barrels per day, and is the largest petrochemical production and export centre in the Asia Pacific region.

Shell wanted to replace its existing analogue network to improve security, coverage and connectivity. The solution had to provide:

• A new network with improved coverage and capacity

• Improved audio quality

• Provide a secure mode of communication for user

• Provide Intrinsically Safe hand portables to the site workers

• Up to 2000 devices/terminals for use across the network

• Maintenance management and service support of the network for 10 years

• Integration to critical applications

As with any petrochemical site, the island consists of a lot of metal structures, which was one of the key challenges to face the implementation of a new network, as metal is often a barrier to radio communication. The hazardous materials present on site offered a number of health and safety hazards to overcome during implementation.

Sepura implemented a TETRA based solution for the site, covering the entire island as well as the ferry terminal and remote docking bay. Sepura’s Intrinsically Safe hand portable radios were implemented to ensure worker safety, with mobile radios fitted in vehicles and fixed versions in in office locations.

To enhance worker safety, the hand portable devices were configured with a dedicated emergency button to enable quick responses in an emergency. To better support the Movement Control Room (MCR) which manage the loading/unloading of products from ships, the Sepura radios were integrated to the instrumentation system to provide quick pump trip function so that those on the in control of loading the large ships could trigger a pump trip using their radio in case of emergency.

Article supplied by Sepura

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